Where do soldiers get their news?

A new Zogby poll came out today. What is getting coverage in a New York Times article is that 72% of U.S. soldiers in Iraq believe we should substantially withdraw sooner rather than later. Perhaps this isn’t surprising, I have been to Iraq, and I would want to come home, too. But what did surprise me (and was not mentioned in the NYT) is that 85% believe that the primary reason we are in Iraq is “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” while 77% said that “the main or a major reason” for the war was “to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.” This is a year and a half after the 9/11 Commission dismissed any meaningful relationship between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks or al Qaeda. Perhaps we cannot expect American soldiers to be better informed than the public at large and a large slice of the public has often linked Iraq and 9/11, in no small part because of innuendo from the Administration or direct claims, particularly from Vice President Cheney. Yet, today polls indicate that less than a third of the public still believe that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11. Soldiers in Iraq get their news through media that the military controls or at least is aware of. It is a shame that they are so poorly informed about why they are fighting.

FAS releases clearinghouse for biosecurity information

FAS has just released our internet resource for biosecurity policy, bioterrorism information, and biodefense research. The site includes an interactive map that provides the locations of both operational and planned laboratories in the U.S. The organizations linked on the site present a wide array of perspectives on what actions individual scientists, research institutions, science journals, the public, and government can do to minimize the threat of bioterrorism while maximizing the benefits of life science research. They also provide important information on select agents, the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention and new approaches to biosecurity. We will be adding to the site over the coming years and welcome feedback on its design and content. You can visit the site at /biosecurity/resource/

Nuclear Weapons Reassert Russian Might, Sort Of

A new review of Russian nuclear forces published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists says that the Kremlin appears to be attempting to reassert its nuclear strength after years of decline in order to underscore Russia’s status as a powerful nation. Large-scale exercises have been reinstated and modernizations of nuclear forces continue with reports about a new maneuverable warhead and the mobile version of the SS-27 (Topol-M) expected to become operational later this year.

Yet the reassertion is done with fewer strategic warheads than at any time since the mid-1970s, approximately 3,500 operational strategic warheads. The number of operational non-strategic nuclear weapons has been cut by more than half to approximately 2,300 warheads.

Moreover, during 2005, Russia’s 12 nuclear ballistic missile submarines only conducted three deterrent patrols. This is a slightly better performance than in 2002 when no patrols were made, but a far cry from the 1980s when Soviet ballistic missile submarines conducted 50-100 deterrent patrols each year.

Article: Russian Nuclear Forces, 2006
Background: Russian Submarine Patrols

The New Russia, and the New Russian Warhead

Been to Moscow lately? If you have, it’s impossible not to notice how commercial the city has become. New automobiles clog the wide boulevards and the air reeks with exhaust. Conspicuous consumption is now an ingrained part of life. Despite the staggering rift between rich and poor in Russia as a whole, Moscow has more billionaires than any other city in the world. Although still an emerging economy, Russia has been sailing along on profits made in the oil and gas industries, inspiring Russia’s leaders to reassert to the world that their nation is still a nuclear superpower.

Times are better in Russia than in the 1990s, when the ruble collapsed, and violent crime ran wild. President Putin is leading his country towards joining the global economy in an autocratic — but effective – fashion. Putin has wisely courted Western industry, and has secured Russia’s place as head of the G8. He also agreed to reduce Russia’s overall nuclear warhead count, but has at the same time stabilized the budgets for ROSATOM’s nuclear weapons programs. While not flaunting Moscow-style material wealth, Russia’s nuclear designers at the closed cities are now at least receiving their paychecks. And they’ve been busy building a new generation of warheads: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11179135/site/newsweek/from/ET/
Continue reading